I’m convinced that the biggest barrier between science fiction and fantasy readers and mainstream readers is the stigma of reading genre fiction. Sadly, some people would be too embarrassed to be seen reading a book with a cover like this on the bus:
Even though it’s a wonderful book that would delight readers across the board, the somewhat cheesy cover would be a turn off to some. Science fiction and fantasy has a long history of interesting, bizarre and sometimes hilariously awful book covers. However, the ways publishers are marketing their books has definitely changed how they pick the covers, though not only for the better. With that thought in mind, I thought I’d go through some of my favorite books and compare the old covers with the new.
We recently received a donation of Forerunner by Andre Norton, and it just happened to be a first edition. Coincidentally, the Library had just ordered the brand new republished, redesigned and reimagined book.
On a trading outpost planet so ancient Earth is only a legend, Simsa makes a living selling souvenirs to space travellers who stop at her planet. While the covers are near mirror images (Simsa is apparent, as is the Zorsal, her bat-like companion), it’s also stiking how different the stylization of the covers is. The newer cover is a more realist depiction and Simsa seems almost feral compared to the original.
The First Command omnibus contains A. Bertram Chandler’s fantastic Spartan Planet novel. A planet long ago settled by humans, forgotten for millennia and now devoid of women, hides a dark secret. The swashbuckling action of the book is highlighted in the new cover (left) rather than the more cerebral ideas of the original. I think I prefer the original cover. In my opinion, the starkness of the image and the title is absolutely intriguing.
Robert Silverberg also went the omnibus route with the collection of novels The Planet Killers. In the title story, the colony world of Lurion is suspected of plotting an attack on Earth, and it’s up to agent Roy Gardner to find out the truth. This is a great interstellar adventure with a rousing mixture of sci-fi and spy fiction. These covers aren’t too drastically different; both have a comely woman who looks more than capable of taking care of herself. Both are nice and pulpy–I’ll call this one a draw!